Friday, November 2, 2012

Post-Sandy Recovery

In my previous post, I blogged about my experience enduring Hurricane Sandy as it was clobbering the Northeastern United States. It's been almost three days now since then, and there's a hell of a lot to talk about.

First, what surprised many of us(particularly folks in places safe from flooding like myself) was just how badly we underestimated Sandy's destructive power. This was due primarily from the Northeast's relative inexperience with hurricanes compared with states around and below the Mason-Dixon line, and basing our expectations of Sandy against what we experienced last year with Hurricane Irene. Even I had thought Sandy wouldn't be a serious problem. As you'll read just below, I had no clue how dead wrong I was.

On Tuesday, I was expecting a jump in business at the store, due to people from downtown and Hoboken suffering from flood damage. But then I went to go grab something to eat over on Central Avenue. Nearly every building in Central Avenue was closed because there was no power at all. The only two food places open besides Stop & Shop were the Chinese fast food joint(they had a generator) across the street and Dunkin Donuts(which was quite a few blocks up the Avenue). Also, I was floored when I seen that one of the mainstays of Central Avenue had literally collapsed under Sandy's fury.
Kennedy Department Store is just smashed.

I decided to go to my workplace to grab a microwavable meal, since it was the only place with stable power. That's when I was greeted with a scene straight out of a nightmare: There were virtually no shopping carts in the corral, hordes of people were charging their cell phones(and laptops!) everywhere they could find an outlet on the sales floor(they even used power strips), every line to the registers were all the way down the aisles constantly and we were getting customers not only from Jersey City, but folks from Hoboken, North Bergen, Nutley, Union City, and possibly other places. As it turns out, the Stop & Shop on Central Avenue was the only major supermarket store for miles that wasn't flooded and had power. There were widespread utility outages everywhere. It was the most serious state of emergency I had ever seen. After work, Central Avenue was literally pitch black.

And to make matters worse, no grocery or perishable deliveries could get to us until Wednesday and Thursday, thereby stripping the store of essential supplies to offer to customers. Also, we're actually a very small store(just nine aisles), with no full deli, seafood, pharmacy, bakery or even florist departments. And we have the only working ATM on the Avenue(that I know of). So we were the most ill-equipped to meet our customers' basic needs during the extreme crisis, thanks to a combination of horrific damages and really bad luck. To our credit though, we've been sticking it out like real troopers and we're still doing our damn best to help speed up local recovery.

On Wednesday, I had found out that the city government had initiated a 7pm curfew for the whole city. However, I was beginning to see signs of slow but actual recovery. We were still getting chaotic business, but I noticed a significant decrease in register line length as the day passed. We finally got a grocery delivery, bringing in much needed water, canned food, juices and other essential foodstuffs.

On Thursday, some businesses on the Avenue opened up, albeit sans power or running off generators. I managed to get a BLT sandwich at a deli across the street, and after subsisting on relatively little amounts of food the past two days, eating something with bacon in it really helped get me through the day. We're also finally getting perishable and ice deliveries, which helps even further.

Tomorrow, the curfew will be lifted(*), as at least some sort of power will be restored to the Avenue and there's news of two supermarkets finally opening back up, helping put a lot of pressure off us. But we've still got a long ways to go before full recovery. For example, I was speaking to the driver of the perishable delivery that finally came in, and he said that his next stop is in Connecticut. Yup, that is how seriously extensive Sandy's damage is: His next stop is in another state!

So that's what's happening so far where I'm at, and I've been hearing rumors that we may be getting a snowstorm next week(Seems very unlikely though). But snowstorms are something New Jerseyans know quite well and can get through fairly easy.

*Correction: I found out that the curfew won't be lifted for at least another 2-3 days, as it is estimated that that is how long it will take to restore power to the Heights area at least.